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How to choose a care provider

This document was produced by the New York Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, we found it to be so informative and helpful that we have included the full text of the document. If you are searching for a care provider, this document is a must read.

As a person with developmental disabilities, or the parent, sibling or other close family member of a person with developmental disabilities, you are faced with having to make many decisions – large and small. Surely, one of the most significant is the decision to seek a residential setting outside of the family home. As you prepare to make this decision, gather as much information as possible and think very carefully about what is important to you.
The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has developed, with input from individuals, families and staff, the attached guide to make it easier for you to learn what you might expect from a residential service provider and to assist you in your decision. This guide is meant to help each person and family as they explore potential living arrangements and meet with possible providers of residential services. All issues identified in this guide and all suggested questions are not necessarily of interest or concern to every person or family. Also, you may want information about issues that are not included here, or you may want to talk to a provider about a particular issue in more detail than is suggested by the guide.
Remember, you must be clear about what is important to you and review each provider’s information and answers to your questions based on that. The providers’ responses, along with other information you will gather, can help you to find a residential provider and situation that will be best for you and your family.
Guide for Choosing a Residential Service Provider
Getting Started:
In preparing to meet with agencies that you may be considering for residential services there are several things you may want to do. Among these are the following:
• You could ask for a copy of the mission statement of each agency and compare it with your own ideas and preferences.
• You might want to talk with individuals or the families of individuals who have received services from the agencies you are considering.
• Exploring the Web site of each agency might be a good way to gain information and insight.
• You may also want to explore OPWDD’s Web site at http://www3-test.opwdd.ny.gov where you will find general background information and a resource directory that includes a listing of residential providers in your area.
Agency Administration:
When you speak with agency representatives about how the agency operates, among the topics you might want to cover and questions you might ask are the following:
• Learn how much experience the agency has in providing residential services to individuals with developmental disabilities and the types of residential and day services it offers.
• Discuss the agency’s personnel practices, including hiring, promotion and over-time. You might ask about the involvement of individuals served in the hiring and evaluation of employees; and about staff experience and qualifications.
• The agency may have a quality improvement program that they could tell you about.
• The agency may have a staff recruitment and retention program they could discuss.
• You might ask questions about the agency’s employee training program, the ratio of staff to people served at various times, policies for coverage during staff vacations and illnesses, and about things of special concern to you.
• You might want to ask about the agency’s policies and procedures for dealing with incidents or any other problematic events that may occur.
Individual and Family Concerns:
The following items focus on issues of how the agency relates to individuals living in residential settings they operate as well as to their family members and friends.
• Discuss the level of involvement you wish to have in development and updates of the individualized services plan, medical care and leisure activities and the agency’s procedures for keeping you (and important others, such as day services providers) routinely informed about these issues.
• When individuals or families have questions or concerns, how are they handled? Are people served and family members made aware of whom to contact and how to access administrative staff, if desired?
• What processes are in place to help individuals and family members in the selection of a living arrangement, such as visits to potential residences and activities to help them become acquainted with the staff and other individuals living in the home prior to making a decision?
• How does the agency handle issues of family involvement? What is the agency’s process for resolution of any conflicts that may arise?
• What process does the agency use to get to know each person well and develop services and supports that will maximize independence as well as respond to their unique interests and circumstances?
• How does the agency accommodate the social activities of individuals, including visits and events involving family and friends, visits and vacations away from the residence and other community activities?
• What are the agency’s policies on issues related to handling income, guardianship or the expenditure of personal resources for the individuals served?
• How are decisions made about roommate selection, room decorations and personal items such as radios, televisions and CD players?
• What steps are taken to ensure self-advocacy in development and implementation of the individualized services plan, and in choosing daily and occasional activities such as meals, leisure and community activities, and vacations?
• What practices does the agency follow to foster the general good health of individuals, such as medication administration, dietary requirements and exercise?
• How does the agency ensure that regular and needed health and dental care are received from providers of the individual’s and family’s choice, and that necessary follow-up occurs? What procedure is in place to provide for family notification as agreed upon by each individual and family.
Overall Impressions:
When visiting a residence operated by the agency, you may want to look at the following things and form a general impression.
• Was the appearance of the residence home-like, clean and organized both inside and out?
• What was the general attitude of those affiliated with the residence? Did people appear to get along well?
• Did the residence seem to run smoothly? Was the staff able to address the needs of the people being served?
• What were people in the home doing at the time of your visit? Did they seem comfortable and well cared for?
Closing Comments

These guidelines are offered only as a tool to help you organize your thoughts and questions. There will probably be other topics and questions you may have in order to help you make the best possible decision. Feel free to seek other assistance that may be available, visit other pages on the OPWDD Web site, or contact your local Developmental Disabilities Services Office of OPWDD.


Recommended Questions for Families and Individuals in Considering Providers:
• How can I arrange a visit?
• How would you describe the philosophy and values of your agency?
• May I talk to individuals and families who use your services?
• May I talk with some of your staff?
• May I have a copy of your annual report?
• May I visit the places where you provide services?
• For how long have you provided services and supports in this county and in other counties?
• What are the qualifications of the staff that would be supporting me/my relative?
• What training do you provide to staff who work directly with individuals? To supervisors?
• How long do staff remain with your agency (by position, by site)?
• What is the agency’s management structure in my county, at particular sites (e.g. Is there an office nearby? Is the site managed from afar?)
• How long has the CEO been with this agency? Can you tell me about him/her and his/her background?
• How long have other management staff been with this agency?

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